Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns

Gentry says changes coming to Suns starting lineup

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The fact that the Suns lost to the Miami Heat on Saturday, even with Dwyane Wade out due to injury and LeBron James playing through illness, wasn’t by itself cause for concern. But the way the team started, flat once again and failing to score in the game’s first 4:14 on the way to a 9-0 deficit, has head coach Alvin Gentry thinking about making some changes.

Phoenix has been a scrappy team that has fought its way back from large deficits the entire season, but it’s obviously difficult to win games when you have to expend so much energy digging yourself out of double-digit holes.

After seeing his team fall behind early and often in just about every one of the Suns’ first 11 games, Gentry says he’ll be making some lineup changes to try to stop that trend.

From SBNation Arizona:

“We got to stop having the starts we’re having and the only way we can deal with that is that we are going to have to change the line-ups,” Gentry said. “So the next game we play it won’t be the same line-up that you’ve seen. I haven’t decided exactly what I am going to do there, but we’ll do something. We’ll do something.”

As for what that something will be, Gentry has a couple of options.

Luis Scola has been inconsistent defensively, and while his offense has come and gone, his spacing on that end of the floor has hindered the team’s effort there rather than helped it.  Jermaine O’Neal might be an option, as would Markieff Morris, who has started to play better recently but has also been inconsistent himself.

A more likely switch could involve shooting guard Jared Dudley, who has yet to find his role with the starters this season with the offense being run through Michael Beasley. Dudley has been solid in the games where the shot attempts were there, so maybe playing with the second unit and being featured a bit more might help him contribute more consistently.

Shannon Brown has provided a consistent offensive spark playing with the reserves, so plugging him in with the starters might give them a little bit more firepower and help the team get away from those painfully slow starts.

Beasley’s position in the rotation isn’t likely to be tinkered with, given the fact that he’s been placed in a primary scoring role and plays somewhat heavy minutes with a combination of personnel. It’s probably best to continue to work with him and hope he finds a measure of consistency rather than dropping him to the second unit.

But at this point in the young season, with winnable games having become losses and the team sitting at 4-7 in the standings, Gentry will have to consider all of his options.

Report: 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor because they were close to Trail Blazers trade

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor for two games last week, openly acknowledging they were discussing trading him. Then, they played him in their final game before the All-Star break.

That prompted speculation that no deal fell through, but that Philadelphia was bluffing being close in order to drum up interest.

But maybe there actually was a near-trade.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

On the surface, this makes sense. We know the Trail Blazers were interested in a cost-controlled center, because they traded for Jusuf Nurkic.

But that trade also makes Portland perfect cover if the 76ers are just trying to deflect from a gambit gone wrong. Not only were the Trail Blazers plausible trade partners, they already made their deal. So, there will be no questions about revisiting discussions.

Locker room drama? Player recruitment? Paul Millsap, does that go on All-Star weekend? “Rarely ever”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant spreading tension throughout the locker room. Players trying to convince Carmelo Anthony he should agree to a trade to their city. Players coming up and trying to recruit free agents to be this summer like the Hawks’ Paul Millsap.

It’s how some fans picture it is inside All-Star weekend locker rooms, all sorts of palace intrigue playing out like a soap opera.

“Rarely ever,” Millsap said of these kinds of things coming up. “For us, we get away from regular season basketball. It’s not about our respective teams, it’s about what’s going on now. You may share some stories, but we’re not talking about (regular season drama).”

Fans can be deeply invested in what happens during the regular season — heck, Eric Gordon heard boos from frustrated Pelicans fans before he won the Three-Point Contest Saturday.

But for the players, it’s a vacation. A chance to get away from all that drama.

“No, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all,” Millsap said of the regular season minutia that can dominate the league. “Once you get down here we’re all teammates. That’s how guys treat it. To get here, we’re enemies, but while we’re here everybody’s teammates and are fun to have in the locker room. It’s just a good time.”

They’re more likely to talk about the parties around town.

“Some,” Millsap said with a laugh. “But it’s just more general conversation, almost nothing about the season.”

Most of the recruitment comes in the summer, and most via text. Some players don’t like each other, just like nearly everyone reading this has someone at their office/job they don’t like working with (except me, all my bosses should be canonized they are such good people). Come the office Christmas Party, people put that aside and just get along. Same thing All-Star weekend for the players. Everyone just gets along and tries to enjoy the experience.

When play starts up again next week, the drama can return.

Draymond Green: ‘Shaqtin A Fool’ treats JaVale McGee unfairly

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) is greeted by forward JaVale McGee in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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NEW ORLEANS — JaVale McGee has fired off at Shaquille O’Neal about “Shaqtin A Fool,” TNT’s blooper segment. Now, the oft-mocked Warriors center has someone else sticking up for him.

“I think JaVale is unfairly treated on Shaqtin,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said. “This year has given me a little different outlook on it.

“I just think there’s some stuff that goes on there about JaVale that really shouldn’t be on there. But, because it’s JaVale…”

That is true. McGee goofs that wouldn’t register if they were by other players make Shaqtin. But McGee still produce plenty of worthy candidates.

And it’s not as if Green is completely turned off.

“I like the show,” Green said. “It’s funny as hell to me. But that aspect of it has kind of given me a little different view.”

PBT Extra: Despite Russell Westbrook’s triple-double pace, James Harden is MVP frontrunner

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The NBA’s MVP race is down to two men. Sure, you can make a case for Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James, some even want to throw Isaiah Thomas in the mix, but the best any of them is going to do is down the ballot in the final three slots.

The top two are reserved for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

In this PBT Extra, I discuss that while Westbrook is on pace for a historic season — averaging a triple-double of 31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists a game — it is Harden who is lifting his team to higher heights, and that very well could win the beard the award.